Memorial Shaft


The Memorial Shaft

The Memorial Shaft, erected one month after the 50th anniversary of the Whitman massacre, commemorated the Whitmans long before a national park was established in their name in 1940. The shaft and the Great Grave were the only markers of the mission's existence until archeological excavations were undertaken in 1941. Bob Weldon was the first administrator to actively manage and try to beautify the shaft area. Not only was the grave's appearance improved during Superintendent Weldon's administration but for the first time water was pumped to Shaft Hill to provide green grass around the memorial shaft. [89] The same road that led to the Great Grave led to the shaft, although it was a steep climb for cars. In 1952 the road was converted to a path with a gate at the bottom to prevent cars from driving up the hill. [90] During this time, the land on the hill surrounding the shaft was farmed by neighbor Enos Miller. Given that Miller's only access to the hill was up this trail, Superintendent Weldon often found the freshly smoothed and manicured path torn up by farm machinery. [91] This problem was alleviated when Miller moved in 1953. [92]

Another long-term management concern included determining the proper nomenclature for the shaft. In 1952, Assistant Director Ronald F. Lee recommended the marker be designated as the "Whitman Memorial Shaft" [93] to distinguish it from the park which was called the Whitman National Monument. However, until 1963 when the park's name was changed from national monument to national historic site, visitors confused the memorial shaft with the entire park, oftentimes never stopping at the mission site itself. The 1963 name changed solved this misunderstanding.

In 1982 there was concern that the shaft was tilting. The 1982 "Resource Management Plan" noted that:

One corner of the Memorial shaft is slightly lower than it should be, due, apparently, to excessive irrigation of the lawn around it. A lateral crack has appeared at the point in which the shaft rests on the base on the Memorial. The crack appears to be the result of the slight sagging of the corner of the Memorial. [94]

Corrective action included reducing irrigation and monitoring the degree of sagging. In 1985, upon the suggestion of Regional Historical Architect Huffman, the shaft was cleaned, the sprinkler heads moved to spray away from the base and fixed measuring points established to monitor movement of the shaft. [95] If measured annually, any movement in the shaft will be detected and further action taken, although after examining the memorial's concrete foundation, Superintendent Amdor said there was "no way" [96] the memorial could move. Confirming this suspicion, a survey conducted by Anderson Perry and Associates in 1986 failed to detect any significant movement of the shaft [97] since 1985. This periodic monitoring should prevent any problems before they occur and should ensure effective management of the shaft in the future.


Last updated: March 1, 2015

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